Preventive Medicine: How S.F. Politicos Saved The World

Now that Wall Street investments have collapsed in value, it's fair to credit Nancy Pelosi's lead in the 2005 battle against Social Security privatization for saving us all from spending old age in abject poverty.
"In this downturn in the financial -- the stock market, thank God we won that fight," Pelosi told Jim Lehrer on Jan. 8.

There's another act of salvation by a San Francisco pol you may not have known about: Now that the global debt crisis is severely punishing borrowers seeking to refinance debt, it's fair to credit just-retired Supervisor Aaron Peskin for saving San Francisco from massive financial default via his 2003 lead in defeating a San Francisco International Airport plan to borrow $10 billion to expand runways.

"Airport officials acknowledged that, had the runway project been approved and moved forward, given what happened with the airline industry and the price of gasoline, and debt markets, that San Francisco International Airport would be facing a catastrophic financial crisis that would include bankruptcy," said Peskin. "It's the same story as it's ever been -- they keep restructuring their debt, but haven't figured out how to pay it off. Their estimates for the runway project were $6 billion, but it was really $10 billion to do the project."

During the early 2000s, SFO spent nearly $100 million studying and defending a plan to fill in 100 acres of the bay to reconfigure runways and make it easier for planes to land in the fog. Peskin made a crusade of stopping the proposal, and in 2001 backed a successful measure that would have made the bay fill project subject to voter approval.

By 2003, airport officials had quietly abandoned the plan, saving us all, it turns out, from a horrid financial headache.

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